This week’s episode, “The Fool Monty” puts Mr. Burns into the spotlight, which is never a bad thing in my opinion. A good plot and great jokes followed, making it one of my favorite episodes this season.
The show’s couch gag was a spoof of Avatar, which I thought was a little late, as that movie came out a year ago. Anyway, onto the plot.
Mr. Burns finds out that he has only weeks to live, and is disturbed by the town’s reaction, which is downright glee. After learning that no one cares for him (except Smithers, but that doesn’t count as “No love can come from one man paying another”) Mr. Burns tries to commit suicide by jumping of a cliff, making sure he takes out as many baby sea turtles as he can. His jump goes awry as a plane hits him and carries him to a forest, where Bart finds him the next day. Mr. Burns forgets his identity and Bart takes care of him, even giving Mr. Burns his clothes, which oddly fit the old man. Homer and Marge find out and at a town hall meeting, it is decided that each citizen will get Mr. Burns for a couple of hours, in which they can do anything to him, as Springfield “Leads the nation in pointless revenge.” This ranges from Apu using Burns as a Assistant Manager of the Kwik-E Mart to Otto using him as a bong. Lisa is the only one willing to help Mr. Burns, and shows him his old mansion, which inadvertently brings back Mr. Burns’ memory. He then turns into the evil man he was before the episode started.
The best part of this show was all the references to past Simpsons episodes. If you’ve followed the show for most of its run, then you could have noticed several allusions to previous plots. Mr. Burns finding out he’s sick reminded me of “The Mansion Family”, where Mr. Burns finds out he has every illness imaginable. When Burns finds out the town hates him, one cannot help but remember “Monty Can’t But Me Love” where he tries to make the town love him. A naked Mr. Burns in the Simpsons’ house alludes to “Brush with Greatness” the episode where Marge painted a naked portrait of the old man. “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” was also referenced as Maggie pointed a gun at Burns while he was in the Simpson’s house, with Lisa telling her, “Not Today.” Lisa helping Mr. Burns felt like “The Old Man and the Lisa” where Lisa helped Mr. Burns rebuild his empire after bankruptcy. The show even reminded viewers of The Simpsons’ Movie, as Mr. Burns tries to cover the town in a glass dome for revenge, which caused Lennie to say, “It’s been done.” There were probably even more that I didn’t even see.
As a long time Simpsons fan, it was nice for the show to remember its good old days. The episode was like a clip show, but instead of clips, there were minor allusions to past plots. There is a fine line between rehashing old plots and subtly adding them in to a new one, and I think the episode did a great job of the latter. When the episode started and Mr. Burns was sick and disappointed at his image, I was scared that the episode was reusing old ideas, but the show did a good job of telling a new story while reminding us of past ones.
Some people were probably annoyed by all the similarities, and the allusions would have been boring if not for the funny jokes throughout the episode. The opening of the show, where all the news networks met in the Statue of Liberty to choose the next media-created scare was great. From the Fox executive stepping off his hovering helicopter, causing it to lose balance and crash, while the pilot exclaimed, “We’re not balanced! It’s not fair!” to NBC being told “You are here to listen and not speak” the segment really made me laugh.
Mr. Burns acting like E.T in the Simpson home was also a treat, as was Mr. Burns’ funeral when everyone thought he was dead. Characters danced on his grave while one I didn’t recognize shouted, “Dance you sons of bitches! Dance like it’s me down there!”
The weakest part of the show was the second story line, where Smithers worked for Dick Cheney while Mr. Burns was missing. There was only one joke in this segment that made me smile, where Smithers said of Cheney, “He likes to stack men naked, I guess that’s a start.” I really didn’t see the point of using Dick Cheney in the episode, his evilness has been joked about before. I think the episode missed a great opportunity to develop Smithers’ character more. It would have been great to see Smithers succeed on his own, only to return to Mr. Burns when he becomes well again.
Overall it was a strong episode. I liked seeing Mr. Burns in a different light and it was great to see him helpless for a while. Even after all the bad things Mr. Burns has done, I found myself feeling sorry for the guy. It would have been nice to see his character grow a little at the end instead of reverting back to where he was before the episode, but that type of plot is standard for The Simpsons. The episode mixed a good plot with great jokes, all while referencing the show’s illustrious past, making it very enjoyable.
For a show that is reportedly on the downswing, this season has been surprisingly good, and I hope this continues with next week’s “How Munched is that Birdie in the Window.” To watch clips of this episode and others, or to learn about upcoming episodes, go to thesimpsons.com.